I drove up on Friday the 20th with the intention of riding four climbs on the Saturday. The fact it was the weekend of the longest day would give me the chance to start off early when the weather conditions were cool and hopefully get the first four climbs done by mid afternoon. After that I would have a chance to recover, have an early night and then take on the fourth climb, the fearsome Shibden Wall on the way home on Sunday morning.
My accommodation for the weekend would be the Travel Hovel TM at Scotch Corner. It is a very handily located place to stay if you are trying to take on the North Yorkshire climbs on a budget although not the best accommodation in some ways. The journey up on the Friday should have taken no more than six hours. Because of road works and various accidents it ended up taking eight hours. After spending too much time stuck in a car in hot weather I was still able to get up at 5.30am the next day and get myself sorted in enough time to be at the top of Buttertubs Pass for about 7.30 on the Saturday morning. It was a bit breezy and cool up at the top which suited me just fine. I've never gone too well in really hot weather so it was nice to find my trip up North had taken me away from the stifling heat of the South of England.
When the Tour de France comes through this road will probably be ten deep with cycling fans
Driving to the top of Buttertubs from the Travel Shack was really interesting as I was able to cover a bit of the 1st stage of this years Tour de France route. For 100 Climbs fans it is important to note that while le Tour does take in Buttertubs the route in the little black book of pain will actually be the descent that the riders take on; they will be riding up Buttertubs from the village of Hawes. It will be a nice fast and tight descent and the roads that it will spit them out onto once they reach the bottom are tight, undulating and potentially quite dangerous for a peloton of over 180 riders. My prediction for the 1st stage of the 2014 Tour de France? Crashes, and sadly probably quite a few. The off camber 90 degree bend at the bottom of Buttertubs will be an interesting test for the peloton.
Hopefully when Chris Froome and his rivals start the descent of Buttertubs they won’t be half asleep as I was. Halfway down there is a steep (25% gradient) hairpin bend. The Tour organisers had already put up warning signs to alert the Tour riders of its presence. Needless to say in my half asleep state I came close to overcooking it and ploughing through a dry stone wall. Its actually quite a fun descent and I’m looking forward to seeing how the pro’s take it on.
The climb up Buttertubs starts with a gradient of around 14%. After a bit of a slog to get going it eases off a bit and the bulk of Buttertubs can be seen ahead of you, as can the road stretching onwards and upwards. The 25% gradient hairpin bends seem a long way away from you when you start this climb and whilst they aren’t as fearsome as you might think they will be, you will have expended a lot of energy by the time you reach them. This does make the kick up in gradient a bit nastier to deal with so its important to leave something in the tank on the early slops. Make sure you look left as you crest the left hand hairpin bend as the view of where you’ve just come from is great.
I had picked a beautiful day for my trip to Yorkshire
Buttertubs has a fun fast element to it. Well, OK, it actually has a nice fast downhill section a little further along from the hairpin bends. I found it a welcome break from slogging uphill and it let me recover a bit before the final slog up the last significant ramp up in gradient before the final cruise along the top to the final cattle grid. It also allows you to take in a great view of the surrounding countryside.
Overall I quite liked Buttertubs Pass. I was a bit tired when I started it but by taking it nice and easy it was a fairly enjoyable ride and a good start to my day of hill climbing. After packing the bike away it was time to head off into nearby Hawes to grab some breakfast and then take on Fleet Moss.